*EDITOR'S NOTE: This Q&A story ran in the Dec. 23 Gameday program, when the Broncos hosted the Cleveland Browns.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Punter
You are currently ranked second in the NFL with a net punting average of 42.8 and opponent return average of 4.9 through Week 14 of the 2012 season. Do you feel like this has been the best season of your career?
“I feel like we’re definitely up there, second in the league. That’s mainly because of our coverage unit. We have a really good coverage unit. First of all, they protect me real well and give me a chance to get a good punt off. They’re down there quick and just haven’t given guys much of a chance to return it. They put me in a good position to succeed.”
How comforting is it to know that you have good protection giving you time to punt?
“It’s good, I don’t even think about it because I know that those guys are doing a good job and they’re going to protect me. It’s not even an afterthought in my mind. I just can focus on catching the ball and getting a good kick off.”
What has made the punt team so effective in coverage this season?
“We definitely have really good athletes all across the board. A lot of punt teams have maybe bigger guys on the inside. We just have real good athletes. They have good size, but they’re very athletic. It’s the second year with (Special Teams) Coach (Jeff) Rodgers and the guys are really just buying into the way we do it, to the scheme, and really committing to working hard, and it’s obviously paying off.”
Was there anything in particular that you did this offseason that explains your success this year?
“I don’t know of much different. I probably worked a little harder as far as just focusing and being more serious and really treating this as my job, because that’s what it is. It’s not just necessarily a sport and a game anymore, it’s your job and it’s putting food on the table. And of course it changes things when you have a wife and she’s pregnant in the offseason. We actually had Nash in April so it definitely changes things. I have to take this serious because I want to do this for a long time. It makes it easier when you have a coaching staff and an organization like this to play for. You really enjoy it. Really just working hard and having the confidence of a couple years under my belt helps a lot too.”
What has it been like working with a new long snapper in rookie
“It’s been great. We miss (former Broncos long snapper) Lonie (Paxton), of course, he was a good friend to us all, still friends. But Aaron’s done great, he really hasn’t made any mistakes. He’s been very successful and made it easy on (kicker) Matt (Prater) and I to do our job. He’s definitely made it easier. He’s done a great job. It’s really impressive. It’s a tough job. A lot of people think all you do is kick, or all you do is snap and stuff like that. But there’s a whole lot more to it. There’s a lot of pressure on the line, and Aaron has really stepped up to that and done a great job on a really big stage.”
How did growing up with a dad and a brother who punted in the NFL affect your career?
“It’s definitely really cool. I was used to it growing up just because I saw it. I saw the pictures of all the Steelers players on the wall and my dad’s Super Bowl rings and stuff like that. With that being said, it was just something that was always ingrained in me, that this is a possibility. So I always believed that I could follow in their footsteps. It’s just given me confidence and made it a lot better. Also I have guys that I can talk to in my family any time I’m having struggles. I think it’s been everything, just to know that I’m not alone and it’s not like I don’t have anybody to turn to. I can call them any time and they’re always there. And I can turn on film and watch my brother (Dustin) over in Kansas City, and he’s been very consistent and top in the league since he’s been in the league. So it’s really confidence for me.”
Is your relationship with your brother competitive?
“We’re not extremely competitive as far as against each other. We kind of want each other to do well. Obviously we want our team to win and we’ve gotten the better hand in that lately. But it’s just fun to be out there and it’s kind of surreal to know that’s my big brother, and growing up with him and then there he is in another jersey and we’re doing the same thing.
Have things changed for you in your first season as a father?
“Life is definitely different. I have a beautiful, loving wife in Nikki and our son Nash is just awesome. It changes every day. It’s honestly taken a lot of the pressure off because you get home from work and say if you didn’t hit the ball well or had a bad game, he doesn’t know. He just looks at you at smiles and it kind of puts life into perspective and just shows that that’s a lot more important than everything else.”
Does having a son give you added inspiration?
“I always go out there with the mindset of audience of one, which means I’m playing for God, because he’s given me the ability and put me out there. But it’s really nice to know that I have a wife and kid. She has brought him to all the home games and I know he doesn’t know anything that’s going on, but I look up there every now and then, and I see him just looking out and watching everything, so it’s pretty awesome. It makes it all the more worth it.”
What has winning eight games in a row been like for you personally?
“It’s amazing. In high school and college, I never really had successful teams. And even the first couple years here. Last year we did, we made it. But it’s a lot better making it to the playoffs the way we are this year. Each game, just knowing that we have a chance to win and do something great. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had less of a job I guess you could say, as far as number of punts, but it’s definitely put the emphasis on each one, every one is important. I try to do my job and make sure I help out whenever we need it.”